From last July's Fruit Focus to this January's ADAS/Syngenta vegetable conference - and next September's Four Oaks ornamentals trade show - biopesticides and their potential to help the industry as further swathes are cut through the diminishing armoury of chemicals for both crop production and amenity uses have featured prominently.
The problem, as leading biopesticides consultant Roma Gwynn outlines in Horticulture Week (pages 32-33), is that the availability of registered biopesticides in the UK remains desperately low - and progress on new products is desperately slow.
Compare and contrast the USA, where horticulture professionals have at least 280 biopesticide active substances registered, with 77 in the EU and just 16 in the UK.
Why? Key reasons include the fact that the USA has had a biopesticide-specific registration system in place for more than 15 years. Meanwhile, there is specific and ongoing Government support for developing biopesticides capacity in the USA, particularly for use on minor crops.
The Technology Strategy Board crop protection programme will help with development over here and Gwynn believes it is "reasonable" to assume that there is potential to increase biopesticide availability in the UK, provided manufacturers consider the UK a viable market that justifies registration costs. But action needs to be taken concerning the regulation process to ensure that products are brought to market in time to be of use to growers.
Alongside the US example, from which potential models could be drawn, Gwynn also highlights a Government-supported programme in the Netherlands to identify effective products, assist registration - including costs - and share knowledge. "The fact that more products became available and growers learned more about using them is a mark of the programme's success," says Gwynn.
Kate Lowe, editor. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
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